Does Losing Handwriting In School Mean Losing Other Skills Too?

| June 5, 2014 | 11 Comments
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As laptops and tablets become more commonly used as writing tools, many are ready to leave the skill of handwriting behind. Most students will do most of their writing on computers, the thinking goes, so educators should get them started on keyboarding skills early. But psychologist are uncovering some unexpected benefits of learning — not just to write, but to write by hand. In her New York Times article Maria Konnikova explains some of the newest research.

“New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep. Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how. ‘When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,’ said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. ‘There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.'”

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  • http://lisadurff.weebly.com/ Lisa Durff

    Citation of said study, note ONE study. I have seen more than one child who could NOT handwrite but COULD critically think well.

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  • Matthew Miller

    A thought provoking study. One thought it provoked in me: the “evidence” that handwriting _may_ improve reading is based on comparing 5-year-olds with competent adult readers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there are any competent adult readers around who grew up being taught via keyboard vs. handwriting.

    So when comparing 5-year-olds–some who use handwriting and some who used computers–to adults, all of whom used handwriting, the researchers found more brain activity that matched the adults’ in the 5-year-olds who used handwriting than in the ones who used computers. Um…are we surprised by this? Are there any conclusions to draw other than similar activites result in more similar brain patterns than different activities?

    This is thought provoking, and may deserve study in greater depth. But journalists (and scientists) should avoid drawing conclusions until much later, when a reasonable body of data has been gathered. However, I think handwriting may be on the same path as oral storytelling and doing square roots by hand using tables, no matter what the data says. An interesting, if antiquated, skill, acquired by a few who are interested and ignored by the great majority who have many other things that they consider to be more worth their time and effort.

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  • http://www.remotedman.wordpress.com/ Darius Douglass

    When you write, you have to be more organized in your thoughts and precise in your spelling. Using a keyboard with spell-check will cause you to unconsciously ease up on your level of concentration. Its takes energy to concentrate. Creativity is stored in the depths of the unconscious. One way to tap into creativity is through consistent and focused effort.

    • manjulika

      I agree with your thoughts.

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  • EveryoneShouldHandwrite

    I was just thinking about this and thought that when you handwrite, you have to individually draw the shape of the letter. the design of each letter thus imprints on your brain differently than hitting a button (or keyboard key) does. also I’m sure that there must be some difference between how your brain interprets information that is written in physical form vs. intepreted in pixels from a screen. I’m also sure that this computer generation is probably able to focus way less because computers are extremely distracting. Also, I think that losing the art of handwriting would be a true loss for humanity — since humans first existed and before I’m sure, humans have scribbled communication by hand. I think handwriting is beautiful and important to know. It should be taught and utilized. Finally, as a writer and researcher, I frequently use both forms of writing — I handwrite to get my thoughts out and organized, and type to create written documents. Everyone should know how to handwrite.

  • courtney

    This really interests me because I am a big proponent of tangible learning–books (not ebooks), worksheets/note-taking (not handouts), handwriting (not keyboard type). From personal experience, I always feel more confident with the material if I have taken extensive notes on paper in my own handwriting, consisting of both words and arrows/drawings usually. The ability to understand material, for me at least, requires an empty page (or pages) and a pen. Innate in typing notes on a computer are limitations in places you can write and the orientation of the words on the page; you can only write in straight lines with a uniform amount of space in between the words and lines. It’s also a pain to insert an arrow or make your own shape or drawing. I think understanding and comprehension of complex material and ideas requires a space that is more flexible than that of the computer page because ideas don’t form in straight lines all the time.

    As far as comprehension in general, I feel that the tangible touch of your hand on a pen on paper can create a more intimate and urgent relationship with whatever the writer is writing. Computer typing is urgent too, but in a way that makes the effort of forming a letter, a word, an idea easier and immediate, though I would argue that the idea wouldn’t be as good or full because the connection with the writer is lesser.

    I also think there is a definite benefit when learning information written in your own handwriting. I understand that some people who handwrite messily or slowly might want typed notes to study with, but in my personal experience, memorizing a poem or writing out an essay plan has been easier and more intimate when I can see mine and other’s ideas written in my own handwriting.